How do brands talk to crisis-hit consumers in Greece?

Opinionated, sceptical, angry, impoverished – consumers in crisis-hit Greece are one of the toughest crowds in the world. How are companies and agencies changing the way they talk to them?

Given the economic and political turmoil Greece has been through in recent years, it is not surprising that the touchpaper of public outrage is never far from being lit.

A recent example of this was a successful social media charity campaign by the National Bank of Greece, run alongside the Athens Marathon, in which it offered to donate 50 euro cents to a children’s hospital for every post using the ‪#irunmarathon hashtag. However glory soon turned to disaster, when it turned out the bank had capped the amount it would donate at €5,000, irrespective of how many times the hashtag was used. Amazingly, a Greek bank had made itself even more unpopular.

“What happened then was mayhem,” explains Vassiliki Kotzia, events organiser and contributor to Marketing Week in Greece. “Everyone got a chance to attack the bank: ‘they’ve taken our money’. It was a very clear example of how social media can explode in your hands rather than doing good for you.”

Social media is very popular in Greece, with an estimated 4.7 million Facebook users out of a population of 11 million, 700,000 Twitter users and 300,000 people on Instagram, according to Kotzia. Brands therefore have a great opportunity to reach a large audience using social media to promote their own content. But as the National Bank of Greece learned, it is a medium that must be handled with care.

“People love social media but Greeks are very judgemental,” says Kotzia. “They’re really ruthless when it comes to criticising.”

Addressing a public in this frame of mind, dealing with drastic wage cuts and high unemployment, means trying to promote products without mentioning money. The result has been many brands playing it safe, retreating from social media and avoiding risks in their marketing and advertising.

“Agencies don’t want to lose clients and clients are nervous of taking a step which won’t be approved of, either by the public or by their management,” says Kotzia.

However content marketing is a cost-effective way for a brand to tell its story, far cheaper than TV advertising spots, and some companies are taking the plunge, accepting they will never make everyone on social media happy. Agencies such as 4 Wise Monkeys (profiled here [LINK]) and The Newtons Laboratory are running campaigns which let brands showcase their content online, offline at events and in traditional print and broadcast media.

“If you’re daring enough then there is room for achievement,” says Kotzia. She points out that while many Greeks can no longer afford a weekly portion of meat, the iPhone 6 sold out in the country.

“There are two ways companies can deal with this environment: one is to say ‘what the hell’ and get on with it, to trust creativity; the other is to be as safe as possible,” she says. “At the moment, most companies in Greece have chosen the second option.”

However visible content marketing successes from the brave minority may help to turn this around.

 

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